Christian messages and dogma abound in our neck of the woods. No, we don’t live in the Bible Belt, but we do live in a predominantly conservative, Republican, Christian area, dotted with “mega churches,” home to evangelicals who seem to believe it is their duty to spread the word and make the state of other people’s souls their business, an area where it is not uncommon to see people standing on the corners of busy intersections holding up huge signs that say in black, block lettering, things like, “GOD IS THE WAY,” and “FEAR THE WRATH OF THE LORD.” So, despite the fact that we do not take our kids to church, nor do we fill their impressionable little heads with religious dogma of any color or stripe, they are nonetheless familiar with the notions of God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell, mostly because they’re surrounded by it, even at their secular schools. Most of their friends go to church and parrot the messages they’ve been spoon-fed since infancy, and just approach any clutch of moms on the playground and chances are you’ll hear their conversations peppered with references to church and prayer and yada yada yada. It’s hard to get away from, and for those of us who endeavor to raise children who will grow into adults who are critical thinkers, it’s an uphill battle.
Kevin was recently invited by one of his closest friends, a Christian by upbringing, to this all-night church event called Midnight Madness. This came on the heels of Kevin receiving by email another bit of Christian propaganda (he gets them periodically – you know, those chain emails that contain some manufactured story designed to “prove” that God is real) – something about Albert Einstein standing up to an atheist philosophy professor way back when, and using the very logic of science to prove that God exists. Fortunately, Kevin forwarded the email to me, which prompted a good discussion. The story itself was easy enough to debunk; all it takes is a few Google searches to discover that Einstein was a self-proclaimed agnostic, and there is no evidence of his ever having written a book called God vs. Science in 1921 – or ever. The trick is not to do exactly what I disdain about what Christian parents do to their kids: tell him what to believe. Instead, what Michael and I set out to do is to teach our kids not to believe everything they’re told. Doubt everything. Question everything. Be skeptical. Examine the facts. Make up your own mind.
Anyway. Back to this Midnight Madness thing. It’s apparently an annual event. Here’s the flyer from a couple years ago (because no flyer for this year’s event seems to be available):
I was disturbed by this on many levels. First off, I guess I find it suspect that there seems to be this need to present religion in this hip package specially aimed at teens (and I have no doubt that they sell other packages to other demographics). It seems awfully contrived and manipulative. Also, this all-night thing? Hmm. Get them all fed and ramped up and tired out, wait till their resistance is at a low from exhaustion, and then feed them Christian messages! Huh.
But really, what bothers me the most is just the whole recruitment aspect of it. It is the number one thing I can’t stand about evangelical Christianity. This whole Midnight Madness thing is an “outreach” event, so described by the person running the event, per a phone call to that person. Outreach . . . hmm. Outreach = recruitment = pushing your faith on other people. Did you notice on the flyer that visitors pay less to get in than members do? And? Members get perks for each visitor they bring! There are incentives for even kids to try to recruit new members. Seems a little cultish.
I don’t understand it, I’ll never understand it. You know what? If Christ is your guy, and Christianity is your path, then bully for you! But to be so arrogant as to think that anyone who does not share your beliefs is lacking in some way, and that you are doing them a favor by trying to get them on the “right” path . . . I find this so offensive. I don’t even think missionary work is benevolent or altruistic. It’s not doing good works just for the sake of humanity, it’s doing good works with strings attached – expecting, or at least hoping, that the beneficiaries of the good works will, in turn, adopt the missionaries’ faith. What a crock.
I’d like my kids, my impressionable kids, to be left out of all this crap. If they want to attend a church service where everything is right up-front, they are more than welcome to. I have no objection to straightforward exposure to different faiths. But this manipulative stuff? No. I don’t like it any more than a Christian parent would like their child being invited to an all-nighter where atheist talks would be given.
Doubt everything. Question everything. Be skeptical. Examine the facts. Make up your own mind.
I’m shuddering to read this. Creeped out. I totally agree with you 100%. That last sentence sums it all up.
I guess I’ve made my point 🙂
for the record… as a Christian parent, I would have no problem with my kids going to an all-nighter where athiests are speaking… I know you wont hear that from the mainstream Christians, but I consider myself a little more openminded
And you might be surprised that not all Christians support these kind of kid party events…. for the opposite reasons that you give. If you are going to be there to “spread the gospel” to kids, then dont try to disguise it with all these games… more often than not, no “gospel” is preached at all… its all just fun and games and no substance, which kind of defeats the purpose of it being at a church (my opinion)… the problem that Ive found lately is that the kids who do go to church have no idea why they go or what they believe… very sad
Addie, we called and asked a bunch of questions, and there definitely was going to be some kind of sermon at around 2 a.m.
Addie, you are 100% correct in stating that many children go to church and don’t know why. I grew up in a Catholic Family and I have to admit at 40 years old, I am now truly understanding my religion in a way I didn’t before.. and keeping with discussion and not trying to push religion on anyone. I have learned more things from my 9 year old who attends Catholic School. In my experience life isn’t easy.. But from personally speaking I have to believe in a place where no one is ever sick and no one ever hurts. This world is not easy for most and worse for others. There are evil people…there has to be a better place.
Why does there have to be a better place? Because you hope/want there to be a better place? That’s magical thinking, not critical thinking.
That is not magical thinking.. That is my “Faith Thinking”. We are different in that and that is fine, but it doesn’t mean that you are right and I am wrong. I hope there is a place like this. Do you have hope? I hope that children and adults do not have to suffer. That bad things don’t happen to good people. That my husband will someday see his father again, who died from cancer when he was a senior in highschool. Without hope what else is there?
“Faith thinking” is not evidence based. It’s wishful, magical thinking. If there were hard and fast proof of what you believe, it wouldn’t be called “faith,” it would be called “fact.”
Do I have hope? You bet your bippy I have hope. See the thing is, bad things DO happen to good people. And good things happen to good people. And bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to bad people. No amount of prayer or faith changes that. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it’s all random. I’ve lived through a lot of difficult stuff, Wendy – a terribly abusive childhood, depression, an abusive first marriage, my father’s sudden death and my first husband’s sudden death six months later, a child with an unexpected life-long diagnosis, and a husband with cancer. But you know what? I still live with hope, and I still value and embrace life and make the most of everything I have. I’m not biding my time until the afterlife – this supposed “better place.” This life is what I have, and I am very appreciative of it. And for me, it has nothing to do with any Creator or the promise of something better after I die.
I am truly sorry that you had to go through so much. And I am being very sincere about that. For me to sit here and tell you, you should believe in god and a better place. That is not my place.. What i will tell you is my husband, has a hesitation about god. His feeling is, if there is a god why would he of let my father suffer for years and take him away from me at the end. I don’t know the answer to that question. I just have to believe that there is better. My husband is 41 years old and he is still a work in progress. I have watched friends loose their children and with that I question a lot. But I always seem to go back to hope and faith.. for all the reasons I stated above. I get you now if that makes sense… I am sorry all that happened to you and you do have a right to feel the way you do. All I can say is I wish you didn’t have to endure your past and I HOPE that your present and future are so much brighter.
Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best (Hope: I feel that there is a better place)…
Wendy, I truly appreciate the sentiments, but don’t be sorry for me, really. There are a lot of people who’ve had it a whole lot worse than I have. All of my experiences have made me who I am today, and I have an appreciation for that. I’m a pretty strong person, and all in all, I’m very grateful for my life.
I will then give you a “high five” from the East Coast.. and tell you.. YOu have endured a SHITTY ROAD and the fact that you are where you are today.. KUDOS!!!!!
The entire time reading all I could think of was CULT.
Whether you believe in a faith or not.. does not mean that your child will not be a “critical thinker”. To spare yourself and your children from what surrounds them you may want to look into a Private School that holds true to your beliefs or non beliefs and practices.
Wendy, I think you missed the point of my post. I don’t feel the need to shelter my children from information or the various faiths out there. That would go against what I’m trying to accomplish with them – to instill in them the skill of thinking for themselves in the face of whatever they’re presented with – wouldn’t it? The point of my post is my objection to Christian “outreach” and recruitment. I find it offensive and arrogant, and as long as my kids are kids, I won’t allow them to be used in that manner.
I agree that recruitment and knocking on people’s doors is something I am against. I believe that Politics and Faith is a family matter and should stay within the family. That is why I don’t open my door for those rolling up on bikes and why when I am handed a Jehovah Witness Brochure, I say no thank you I am Catholic.
I don’t think proselytizing in itself is offensive (annoying and not my cup of tea but not offensive and certainly not wrong), but here we have a case of (a) hidden proselytizing because the religious aspect of the event is not mentioned on the invitation and (b) proselytizing to kids. This is doubly problematic, I agree with you, Lisa.
Having said that, I think I’d give my child the permission to attend. Here’s why:
As an atheist parent, I want my kids to grow up both respectful of the importance of religion to other people and also able to think critically about it. I don’t mind if my kids end up religious (though I hope not fundamentalist). To this end, I plan to expose them to religion, to explain charitably why people value it and even let them attend church with their friends if they wish. But of course, as a philosophy professor I would also talk to them why I don’t believe in god. I think it will be a better way to inoculate them against dogmatism, than keeping it a forbidden fruit.
I agree with you, Anna, that allowing them exposure is “a better way to inoculate them against dogmatism.” And I have no problem with my kids being exposed. Kevin has attended church services with friends, and Michael has offered to take Joey to church, synagogue, whatever, when he’s expressed curiosity about religion. I don’t object to upfront, straightforward messages. What I object to, in the case of this overnight event, is the hidden agenda. Wear them out, get them when they’re tired, offer incentives to church members to recruit new members. A lot of unsavvy kids might not, in the face of that, be able to see it for what it is (which is what the church is banking on, obviously). I do not want my kids to be the object of that kind of thing.
Yeah, the midnight thing is also relevant and disturbing here…
I don’t know… I worry it’s like telling teenagers not to have sex. I’d love to know how you end up handling this and how Kevin reacts. I have a lot to learn…
Anna, the event was last week, so it’s already been handled :). We’re pretty frank with our kids, and after discussing it, Michael and I were pretty straightforward in explaining to Kevin why we weren’t going to let him attend. He was surprised and at first didn’t believe us when we told him that it was an “outreach” event and that there would be a sermon of some sort and that it was aimed at recruiting new teens to the church. He truly (and naively) believed that although it was being hosted by his friend’s church, it had nothing to do with God or religion or that there would be any Christian messages or anything – he really thought it was actually just going to be a night of fun with nothing underlying it. Until we told him that we had called the church to find out what this event was actually about. We told him that he’s welcome to go to church services but we had a problem with the idea of him being kept up all night and given Christian messages, all disguised as a night of pure fun. In the end, he really was okay with not going.
And I agree with you about telling kids not to have sex! Absolutely not realistic in my view. I’d rather teach them about self-respect and responsibility so that they have the tools to make good choices.
completely agree. 2 am?? that’s just cah-razy!
I’m with Anna, I don’t care if my kids grow up to be members of a religion but I do want to give them the critical thinking skills to be able to work out why they believe rather than succumbing to mindless indoctrination.
I’m not surpised about the event. If there’s one thing religion is good at, it’s indoctrinating it’s young. Because of my very unique postion, having a believing husband, and I myself being essentially a non-believer, it frankly kind of pisses me off. I hate seeing my kids parrot stuff they hear at the mosque without having any idea why they’re saying what they are. It’s precarious position to be in to be sure.
Love this! Thank you!